The Baron Marcel Nicolet Medal 2015

Doctor Christine Amory Mazaudier and Doctor David Berghmans


Dr Christine Amory Mazaudier 

Christine Amory-Mazaudier is a gifted scientist, with more than 90 space weather papers in refereed journals, and more than 10 PhD students. However, in the frame of the Nicolet medal, I would like to emphasize another essential aspect of her career. The most astonishing achievement of her international career is the introduction of space weather to people in more than ten developing countries. In her lucid vision, she emphasized the need for “laboratory without borders” as a means of mainstreaming gender in traditionally nonfemale disciplines.

She also highlighted how support funding from international projects such as the “International Space Weather Initiative” had assisted women in their research works. She often says, “in order to build a new world that is gender balanced, we need to think differently”. Since 1995, at the end of the International Equatorial Electrojet Year when African and European scientists decided to create the GIRGEA (International Research Group Europe Africa-Asia), Christine Amory-Mazaudier actively contributed to pursue the scientific work. The main objective of GIRGEA was to introduce space sciences research in developing countries, and to build teams of scientists in these countries recognized at an international level. Christine Amory-Mazaudier developed a large network of scientists from developed and developing countries.

The process proposed by Christine Amory-Mazaudier is Work Based on Ethical Rules and Sharing Practices in terms of scientific publications and socio-cultural aspects as the increase of the number of women and positions for students in their countries. The emerging idea of Christine Amory-Mazaudier to achieve this goal is the organization of 1) training in several disciplines in the project, 2) teaching in management and data base organization, following the students and help them to enter in the international community. Finally, the students are involved in the project and can propose new development. She maintains communication with a newsletter and keeps contact with all the participants.

Practically, she introduced a new method that proved incredibly efficient. Space Weather researchers from Northern countries can propose PhD topics to students from developing countries through GIRGEA. When a student is selected, her/his home country accepts, through an official contract, to fund her/him at the same level as a student from the host developed country. Moreover, this government is committed to hiring the student as a university professor after (s)he defends her/his PhD. This extraordinary method created a virtuous circle in many developing countries. The hired students are used to research, and once professors, train their own students in the research spirit, with the prospect to have them perform a PhD.


Dr David Berghmans

David Berghmans was present at the foundation of space weather in Belgium and Europe. Space weather was boosted in the nineties with the joint ESA/NASA mission SOHO providing a wealth of opportunities for space weather research and space weather services. The Solar Physics Department of the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB) became a member of the EIT/SOHO consortium and contributed to the instrument development, calibration and in-flight control. David Berghmans and his colleagues initiated multi-instrument observing campaigns in which groups worldwide were involved, e.g. the Shutterless experiments. The ROB set up its first Satellite Data Centre, archiving all EIT observations, and providing an unprecedented archive for solar activity and its evolution. At that time, David Berghmans became an active member of the Space Weather Working Team (SWWT), a European discussion forum that advises ESA in space weather strategy.

The next natural step was the creation of a Space Weather Centre. David Berghmans took this initiative and in 2000, the ROB obtained the status of Regional Warning Centre, one of the ISES (International Space Environment Service) nodes. David Berghmans coordinated the centre and also mainly executed the local implementation, management, structure set-up, etc. Through the ISES network, informal and formal contacts with worldwide space weather centres were possible and collaborations were set up, e.g. the American space weather division, SWPC. Simultaneously, the ESA Space Weather Operations Pilot Project, a ROB-lead initiative, investigated the sustainability of space weather in Europe.

This project was the very start of a European movement initiated by ESA and executed by the ROB to strengthen the position of Europe on the space weather world map. The science and instrumentation know-how together with ROB’s growing expertise as space weather service centre, could be fully exploited by the PROBA2 mission. David Berghmans stood at the cradle of SWAP and LYRA, both EUV solar science experiments onboard PROBA2 relevant for Space Weather research and services. The PROBA2 mission was an excellent exercise in bringing together different research groups, universities, administrative structures, agencies, companies, e.g. IMEC. The PROBA2 Guest Investigator Program was introduced offering the opportunity to researchers worldwide to work on space weather and solar physics issues based on PROBA2/LYRA and SWAP data. This program is an exemplary effort to coordinate space research and make it as accessible as possible by lowering the financial, cultural and age-linked barriers.